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Old 05-26-2011, 12:08 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Arrow The Cheap Seats: The Raptors need an infusion of veterans

From Tim Chisholm's other blog for MSN.

The Raptors need veterans. That may not be a sexy perspective to take these days, not with visions of youth and bouncy athletes dominating the imaginations of Raptors’ fans from coast-to-coast, but the fact remains that this team needs veterans.

Keep in mind that right now the bulk of Toronto’s core is 23-years-old or younger. DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson, James Johnson and Jerryd Bayless are all exceptionally young players, and whatever rookie is selected next month (be it Brandon Knight, 19, Kemba Walker, 21, or Enes Kanter, 19) isn’t going to make that group any older. Taken together, that’s six members of the team’s expected rotation next season, and in the NBA the average rotation is no more than eight or nine deep. Bringing in veterans doesn’t mean bumping any of those guys down on the food chain, it means that they’d have a stronger support system behind them than Alexis Ajinca, Julian Wright and Joey Dorsey.

Young players tend to be long on talent but short on knowing how to use that talent. Winning in the NBA comes down to so much more than who can jump the highest or shoot the furthest. On the court it takes an understanding of positioning, of angles, of spacing, of when to help and when not to, of when crash the offensive boards and when to get back in transition. It’s about knowing how to react in every possible scenario without thinking, it’s the kind of stuff that comes from a career’s worth of playing time, which obviously these young Raptors don’t have on their sides.

That’s why teams tend to blend their young players with veteran talent. It doesn’t have to be an even split, nor do those veterans even have to have been All-Stars or Hall-of-Fame talents. Last year Scott Skiles spoke glowingly about Kurt Thomas and the transformative effect he had on a young Milwaukee locker room. Russell Westbrook and the Thunder were frequently cited in their effusive praise of Kevin Ollie and the leadership that he brought to an inexperienced Thunder roster. Heck, even Reggie Evans proved to be an unexpected leader in Toronto, so much so that head coach Jay Triano wants him back in the fold despite the team already having three highly-paid power forwards on the roster in front of him. These kinds of leaders know how to impart their career’s worth of lessons onto young disciples, they provide a voice in their ears that is easier to relate to than that of their coach. They’re out on the floor with them, they see what each other sees, and that provides them with an implicit trust that no coach can ever truly replicate, no matter how much they are respected by their troops.
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